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Das Boot: 2-Disc Collector’s Set (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 16, 2011 by  



“Das Boot” is one of the best war films in cinema history.  And with its brilliant presentation on Blu-ray, with its awesome PQ and AQ and informative special features that bypasses the original and awesome DVD version.  I’m quite confident that you will also find this release to be one of the best war films on Blu-ray!  “Das Boot: 2-Disc Collector’s Set” is highly recommended and deserving of 5 stars.

Images courtesy of © 1981 Radiant Film. All Rights Reserved

TITLE: Das Boot: 2-Disc Collector’s Set

FILM RELEASE DATE: 1981

DURATION: 149 minutes (Original Theatrical Version)/208 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (widescreen 1:85:1), German and English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: Arabic, Danish, Dutch, English, English SDH, Finnish, French, Hindi, Norwegian, Swedish

RATED: R (For Some War Violence and Brief Language)

COMPANY: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Twentieth Century Fox

RELEASE DATE: July 5, 2011

Directed by Wolfgang Petersen

Based on the novel by Lothar G. Buchheim

Written by Wolfgang Petersen

Produced by Gunter Rohrbach, Ortwin Freyermuth

Executive Producer: Mark Damon, John W. Hyde, Edward R. Pressman

Co-Produced by Michael Bittins

Assistant Executive Producer: Edward Summer

Music by Klaus Doldinger

Cinematography by Jost Vacano

Edited by Hannes Nikel

Casting by Willy Schlenter

Production Design by Rolf Zehetbauer

Art Direction by Gotz Weidner

Set Decoration by Gotz Weidner, Rolf Zehetbauer

Costume Design by Monika Bauert

Starring:

Jurgen Prochnow as Capt. Lt. Henrich Lehmann-Willenbrock – Der Alte

Herbert Gronemeyer as Lt. Werner – Correspondent

Klaus Wennemann as Chief Engineer Fritz Grade – Der Leitende- Der Li

Hubertus Bengsh as 1st Lt. – Number One – 1WO

Martin Semmelrogge as 2nd Lt. – 2WO

Bernd Tauber as Kriechbaum – Chief Quartermaster-Navigator

Erwin Leder as Johann

Martin May as Ullman

Heinz Hoenig as Hinrich

Uwe Ochsenknecht as Chief Bosun

Claude-Oliver Rudolph as Ario

Jan Fedder as Pilgrim

Ralf Richter as Frenssen

Joachim Bernhard as Preacher

Oliver Stritzel as Schwalle

Konrad Becker as Bockstiegel

Lutz Schnell as Dufte

Martin Hemme as Bruckenwilli

Rita Cadillac as Monique

Otto Sander as Phillip Thomsen

Gunter Lamprecht as Captain of the “Weser”

At the height of WWII, a young submarine crew heads out to sea on a top-secret mission that all but ensures most will never make it home alive. Ordered to patrol the Atlantic and destroy an allied armada bringing supplies to Britain, these raw recruits must band together, bracing themselves against a depth-charge assault from an unseen enemy. Petersen’s epic adventure deftly explores tension as pressure builds to an explosive climax, packing a visceral punch few movies can match.

In 1981, German filmmaker and screenwriter Wolfgang Petersen began their work on the film adaptation of Lothar-Gunther Buchheim’s 1973 German world war II novel.

Buckheim who was an officer in the German Navy was a war correspondent who drew and took photographs and in 1941, joined the U-96 on their seventh patrol during the Battle of the Atlantic and with his experience, he wrote “Die Eichenlaubfahrt” (The Oak-Leaves Patrol) and later on writing a novel based on his experienced in “Das Boot” (the Boat) which would feature him as a fictionalized autobiographical character known as Lt. Werner.

As Wolfgang Petersen took on the directorial reigns of “Das Boot”, not only would the film become the most expensive German film at that time, it would be the most daunting and challenging film that the filmmaker has ever worked on and though the film was not a financial success, it was critically acclaimed, a big hit in the United States and other countries, winner of two of the six Academy Awards that the film was nominated for and also would eventually lead Petersen to an International career which would lead to him directing Hollywood films “In the Line of Fire”, “Outbreak”, “Air Force One”, “The Perfect Storm” and “Poseidon”.

It is important to note that “Das Boot” was released in 1981 as a 150-minute film.  The longer version that many people watched was a three 100-minute episode series aired on television in 1984 (followed by six 50-minute episodes in 1988).

Seeing the power of how the longer TV series was compared to the original theatrical film, producer Ortwin Freyermuth who worked with Petersen on his 1991 film “Shattered” asked the filmmaker about the possibility of taking the longer footage from the TV series and creating a longer version of the film.  Petersen was open to it but only if Freyermuth can raise the financing to make it happen.

And sure enough, Ortwin Freyermuth made it happen! And it’s due to the emerging DVD technology at the time as studios wanted to release films for a generation who cared about the quality of film and audio.

But it was not that easy as the original negatives for the film was submerged underwater due to a flood and while many of the reels were rescued, the audio portion was damaged to the point where existing sound would have to be baked and captured digitally.  Fortunately, both video and audio were rescued and the painstaking effort of editing by Hannes Nikel, getting copies of the original soundtrack from Klaus Doldigner and working with a company to bring the film with new immersive surround sound and also re-recording the English dubbing for the film.

In the end, “Das Boot – The Director’s Cut” was released on DVD and became a best selling DVD and for many DVD fans, is a must-own release!

Fast forward to 2011 and here we are with “Das Boot: 2-Disc Collector’s Set” improving on the wonderful DVD version with 1080p High Definition and as for that soundtrack that everyone loved, now it is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA.

The 2011 release comes with both the Director’s Cut and the original theatrical version plus newer special features including an exclusive new documentary and more!

“Das Boot” begins with the story of how Hitler wanted to use U-Boats (submarines) as a way of crippling the British military/navy but in essence, it worked against them.  With over 40,000 soldiers of the German Navy sent on U-boats, 30,000 soldiers lost their lives (many sent to battle were inexperienced young men).

The story of “Das Boot” focuses on the viewpoint of Lt. Werner (played by Herberg Gronemeyer) who has been assigned as a war correspondent on the German submarine, the U-96 and working closely with Captain Henrich Lehmann Willenbrock (played by Jurgen Prochnow).

The Captain is anti-Nazi but he is a sea veteran that will do his duty and watch over this crew of young serviceman.  Many of the young crew mock Lt. Werner because of his lack of experience but for Werner, it’s a good chance for him to meet the various people inside the submarine.  Those who miss their love ones terribly, those who are there for the job and many who have no idea what kind of challenges they are facing.

Lt. Werner also takes notice of the various ideological differences between the crew members and the veterans.  The Captain who is cynical about the war, some who are religious, others who are not.  But as they ride the seas and notice nothing really happening, the U-boat spot an enemy convoy along with a British destroyer.

As the U-boat send out several torpedoes towards the enemy, the British destroyer sends out depth charges and the crew are bombarded. The crew get a taste of battle and learn first-hand of the danger.

But in the ocean, as the crew prepare for the enemy, they soon learn how mother nature is also unkind when a storm starts to injure other crew members.  Once the storm ends, the crew encounter a British convoy and immediately the crew shoot four torpedoes.  As they are caught by a British Destroyer, the submarine submerges and bare through various depth-charge attacks.

Some crew members begin to panic and fear for their lives.  When they rise back up, they realize the extent of their four torpedoes as they noticed the British convoys blazing in fire.  One is still burning slowly, so the Captain sends out one more torpedo but what the crew sees is horror as the Captain thought that the men on the enemy vessel were rescued but instead, are now screaming for their life for rescue and a few on fire.  The British enemy now in the ocean beg for the U-boat to save them but they know they can’t and leave them to die.

It’s a sight that no one applauds, some are deeply bothered of seeing lives lost and many experience firsthand how war, everyone suffers in someway.

The longer they stay in the ocean, not only is the U-96 coming short on fuel, food and supplies but they realize that war is not going to get any easier, in fact, the way things are going and the longer they stay out there, the more troubles that they will face and the Captain becomes more concerned about his crew and their survival.  For Lt. Werner, he begins to wonder if he will survive the longer he stays inside the U-96.

VIDEO:

“Das Boot: 2-Disc Collector’s Set” is presented in 1080p High Definition (widescreen 1:85:1). It’s important to note that this film was released back in 1981 and also that this film is 30-years-old.   This movie was created before CG and a lot of the scenes were created with technology that was used back then, including the use of miniature models. It’s also important to note that the version that the worked on is the longer director’s cut version.

So, with that being said, let’s begin with the “Das Boot: The Director’s Cut”.  This version of the film looks fantastic and much better than its DVD counterpart.  You can actually see the skin pores, the various age marks on the skin of the Captain, the hair follicles, the detail of clothing to the detail of wounds.

The colors that you see from the red and blue lighting (amber colors come alive during the British convoy on fire) is colorful and vibrant and while skin colors are natural and black levels are deep, there is a good amount of grain that can be seen but also the actual film seems to come alive.  I was very impressed by the picture quality of the film.

But it’s not 100% perfect.  There is some banding during certain scenes that really showcase the lights and of course, certain shots of the submarine (shorter scenes), you can see a lot of noise which probably is more enhanced in HD than it was on DVD.  By no means is the banding or the noise affecting your viewing pleasure of the film because those scenes are rather short and miniscule to the more positive PQ scenes throughout the film.

“Das Boot” on Blu-ray makes a world of difference compared to its DVD counterpart and PQ-wise, this film looks magnificent on Blu-ray!

As for the original theatrical version, while presented in a higher bit-rate, it doesn’t have that sharpness, contrast and detail of the longer Director’s Cut version.  In fact, some parts, you can tell that the look of the film, looks its age.  But there’s no comparison to the PQ of the shorter film versus the Director’s Cut.

Also, while most people may be intrigued to see the original theatrical version and see what newer scenes were added to the Director’s Cut, if anyone is to watch “Das Boot” for the first time, one must watch it via the Director’s Cut version.  It’s the best way to watch the film and it does make a difference.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Das Boot: 2-Disc Collector’s Set” is presented in German and English 5.1 DTS-HD MA and French 5.1 Dolby Digital.  And clearly, the lossless soundtrack is phenomenal.  If you have the proper audio setup, “Das Boot” is magnificent.  You can each droplet of water and is it lands, hear every bubble from the outside of the submarine, hear the steel of the submarine compress and expand, hear the ambiance inside the submarine from the men who are working during the most silent of times to the most alarming of times during battle.

Ambiance of one walking on the metal flooring, the twisting of a valve, a call from the distance, a scream from the distance, the radio playing at a distance, the torpedo hitting its targets to a depth charge hitting the U-boat, “Das Boot” is immersive!

Even outside of the submarine, the swishes of ocean water from left to right and right to left and while you are in the middle watching and feeling you are right there!    You hear everything and as much as the DVD version was wonderful in terms of its soundtrack back then, one must watch “Das Boot” in HD to truly see how the lossless audio soundtrack enhances one’s appreciation for this film!  I was amazed to hear the sounds this much clearly and this much immersive compared to when I did watch this film on DVD.

It’s also important to note that the music by Klaus Doldinger and hearing it in lossless is also wonderful!

While it was my preference to watch this film with its original German dialogue in 5.1 DTS-HD MA, there is a English dub included.  Bare in mind, the voice acting is British (and in some way, it felt weird to watch German’s speak British, since the enemy on the water was the British) and because the original German film wanted to showcase the various dialects, the same can be said with the British voice acting and some of the dialogue is hard to understand and I felt I needed the subtitles on just for that.   But you do have a choice between the Germana and English lossless soundtrack!

It’s one of the few films where audio and also silence makes a big difference in a film and I can tell you right now, this is a brilliant lossless soundtrack!

Subtitles are Arabic, Danish, Dutch, English, English SDH, Finnish, French, Hindi, Norwegian and Swedish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Das Boot: 2-Disc Collector’s Set” comes with the following special features:

DISC 1:

  • Filmmakers Commentary – Featuring a new audio commentary by Wolfgang Petersen revisiting the director’s cut version of the movie along with Ortwin Freyermuth.

DISC 2:

  • The Perfect Boat – The Director’s Cut – (13:02) The process of “Das Boot”, the theatrical movie, the TV series and the making of the longer version of the film and the challenges to make the longer version in 1996.
  • Maria’s Take – (9:16) Maria Petersen (assistant director) reflects with husband/director Wolfgang Petersen on working on the set of “Das Boot”.
  • Historical Material – Featuring the original “Behind-the-Scenes” 1981 featurette (1:00:20) and “The Battle of the Atlantic” (1983) featurette (40:18) which is a German documentary with interviews with former WW2 veterans from both the German and British side.
  • Captain’s Tour – Inside the Boat – (8:12) Actor Jurgen Prochnow gives us a tour of a submarine – Rooms Overview, Entry Conning Tower, Torpedo Room and Crew Quarters, Captain’s and Officer Rooms, The Control Room, Petty Officers Room & Gallery and Diesel & Electric Motor Rooms.
  • Wolfgang Petersen – Back to the Boat – (44:48) Wolfgang Petersen, Jurgen Prochnow, Director’s Cut Producer Ortwin Freyermuth visit the original location of where “Das Boot” was shot and visiting the submarine and reflecting on memories from the past.

EXTRAS:

“Das Boot: 2-Disc Collector’s Set” comes with a slipcover case.

“Das Boot” is one of the best war films of all time!  It’s also the definitive masterpiece for filmmaker Wolfgang Petersen.

While I do know that the original author of the “Das Boot” novel had issues with Wolfgang Petersen’s film and how certain situations depicted in the film (such as the crew partying in their quarters to have fun and make time fly by quickly), the fact is that this film is brilliant in many levels.

Not only does Wolfgang Petersen capture the loneliness of men being inside a submarine and capturing the various emotions that the men inside the submarine had, may it be out of boredom, fear or being in survival mode, the truth of the matter is that war is ugly and there are wide range of emotions that can take place in war and Petersen manages to get this crew of unknown talent, many who have never acted before, to make the film feel true and authentic.

Bare in mind, this was not a easy film to shoot.  Not only were smaller-sized models and life-sized models of the submarine were created but the crew would shoot during the worst of conditions and risk their lives in order to make these shots work.  Even production delays took place as the worst things that one can imagine happening during filming, did happen.

According to Petersen, the crew and talent were extremely exhausted and tired (as it required a long time to shoot the film, unexpected delays as well as a grueling schedule to get things right) and those scenes with the crew submerged in water, apparently one even caught pneumonia.  Even the submarine that took one year to build was damaged during the storms and while the crew and film were able to get back to land safely, Petersen awoke to a urgent call that the submarine has disappeared.

Not only had it disappeared, parts of it were in the middle of the ocean and later hitting ocean shore.  Plagued with even more problems, the crew manage to take the salvaged parts and make it happen.  With careful cinematography and editing, you can’t tell by watching the film that the submarine was not in the best of shape.  And there are so many of these little tidbits of factoids that we learn through the audio commentary and also featurettes.

And once you are done with the film and are familiar with the curmudgeonly remarks made by the creator of the original novel, if you want to learn about the actual war in the ocean during World War 2, you are also provided an 40+ minute documentary on the subject.

There was true commitment in making this film work and when one goes through the special features and learns of how much went into creating this film, one would be surprised.  It was not easy and with everyone’s hard work, all of this has added to the efficacy of “Das Boot”.

Herbert Gronemeyer  does a wonderful job in playing Lt. Werner and his expressions gives us the idea of how fearful he was during those moments when you think you may die or are going to die.

Klaus Wennemann plays a Chief Engineer who longs for his sick wife and you know that deep inside, he should be with her but at the same time, know that his experience is what is needed because there is not many others who are alive that can save a submarine if all goes wrong.

But the person who rises to the occasion of establishing decorum on the submarine is Capt. Henrich Lehmann-Willenbrock played by Jurgen Prochnow.  He is the man who holds his emotions in check for the crew, trying to remain calm and not let anyone know of his emotional well-being, especially when it looks very bleak for the submarine and the entire crew.

I may not be the Word War 2 aesthete but I do know when I watch a good film, not only technically through its direction, editing, cinematography but also a film’s storytelling and performance.

This film, “Das Boot” was not an easy film for Wolfgang Petersen.  It’s never easy when you create a film based on Nazi Germany and focus on the Nazi’s.  The fact is that many people on the boat were young people who probably didn’t care or know the extreme about political ideals.  The captain was cynical towards war and his role for the Nazi’s and you have young people being young people on a submarine, not discussing the Nazi extremes or politics or even Hitler.  These people were hired to do a job and follow their captain.

By no means does this film glorify the Nazi’s because by film’s beginning and by film’s end, and of course knowing the history of the U-Boats, you know that things don’t go well for the Germans.  The question is who lives? Who dies?  And what are the situations that will clearly affect the crew.  I can tell you right now, when I first watched “Das Boot”, it was an ending I was not expecting and by the film’s end, I was pretty content with how Petersen ended the film.

“Das Boot” does not contain the banality of WW2 films but it should set the criterion of what can be accomplished with no-name talent and dedication from the talent all the way up to Wolfgang Petersen. This film is a true masterpiece!  And I know that word is often over-used but in this case, there is nothing like this film.

And you have to give credit to Wolfgang Petersen and Ortwin Freyermuth for even attempting to create a director’s cut of the film.  But I’m glad that Freyermuth persisted and following his gut feeling that what he saw on television (the “Das Boot” mini-series) and taking all those additional scenes and creating a longer film.  Petersen gives a lot of credit due to the director’s cut version’s success to his editor Hannes Nikel who worked on making this longer version a reality during a time when Petersen was busy working on “Air Force One”.

And as complicated it was to get all the reels of film, getting all the sound digitized and all the painstaking work in making this director’s cut a reality, it was met with great success and while my original review of the DVD was very favorable, this Blu-ray release defied my expectations.

“Das Boot: 2-Disc Collector’s Set” is magnificent!

And I’ll say this again.. “Das Boot” is one of the best war films in cinema.  And with its brilliant presentation on Blu-ray, with its awesome PQ and AQ and informative special features that bypasses the original and awesome DVD version.  I’m quite confident that you will also find this release to be one of the best war films on Blu-ray!

“Das Boot: 2-Disc Collector’s Set” is highly recommended and deserving of 5 stars.

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